Predictably, most of the area’s news media erupted with uncritical applause earlier this week when it was announced that Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority approved a memorandum of understanding with the Ilitch-owned Olympia development.
As reported by John Gallagher of the Free Press, here are the basics of the deal that would bring Detroit a new hockey arena for Ilitch’s Red Wings as the anchor for a sprawling development covering about 45 city blocks west of Woodward and north of I-75:
“Private money would pay for about 56 percent of the total cost of the new project, with 44 percent coming from public sources, mainly from continuation of a $12.8-million-a-year property tax ‘capture’ authorized by the state legislature last year. The DDA would contribute about $2 million a year. Olympia Development is expected to contribute $11.5 million per year.
“All three of those sources would be used to pay off 30-year bonds issued through the Michigan Strategic Fund. No City of Detroit or Wayne County general fund money would be used for the project.”
Public money was already used to help pizza baron Mike Ilitch build a new playpen for his Tigers baseball team. But that’s not enough. Now the public is going to help the Ilitch family, which, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $2.7 billion, add to its already considerable empire. Included in that number from Forbes, by the way, is Marian Ilitch’s Motor City Casino and hotel.
Granted, the founders of Little Caesars Pizza took a chance and bought the Fox Theatre at a time when no one was investing in Detroit. But the stadium deal was a sweet one for the Ilitch family, so we’d say the favor has more than be returned.
Especially since the largely vacant property that’s going to be developed is largely vacant because the family has been accumulating property for years, letting it sit idle for this day to come.
So here we have a city on the verge of bankruptcy agreeing to turn public money over to billionaires who are only looking to get even richer.
Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with that picture?